Story: The Novice monk – Sit from dawn to dusk

Narrated by: Mark Williams

“In a time honored story set in an ancient Himalayan Kingdom.
A novice monk was excited at the prospect of meeting his teacher for the first time he was on fire with questions but sensed that this was not the time to ask them instead he listened carefully to the teacher’s instructions they were brief and to the point.

get up early tomorrow and climb to a cave you’ll find at the top of this mountain sit from dawn to dusk and have no thoughts use any method you wish to banish thought when the day is over come and tell me how it went.

the next day the novice found the cave made himself comfortable and waited for his mind to settle he thought that if he sat long enough it would become blank instead his mind was crowded with thoughts soon he started to worry about failing the task he’d been set.

he tried to force the thoughts out of his mind but that just produced more thoughts he shouted at them to go away but the words echoed noisily in the cave he jumped up and down held his breath shook his head nothing seemed to work.

he’d never known such a bombardment of thoughts in his life at the end of the day. he climbed back down completely dispirited wondering what his teacher’s response would be perhaps he’d be dismissed as a failure unsuitable for further training, But the teacher just burst out laughing at the tale of his mental and physical gymnastics very good you have tried really hard and done well he said.

tomorrow you should go back to the cave sit from dawn to dusk having nothing but thoughts think of anything you like all day long but allow no gaps to occur between your thoughts. the novice was really pleased this would be easy he was bound to succeed after all having thoughts is what had been happening to him all day.

the next day saw him climbing up with confidence to his cave and taking his seat after a little while he realized that all was not well his thoughts started to slow down occasionally a pleasant thought would come to mind and he would decide to follow it for a while but soon it dried up. he tried to think Grand thoughts philosophical speculations to worry about the state of the universe anything he started to run low on things to think about and even got a little bored where had all his thinking gone then he noticed gaps in his thinking oh dear this was what he’d been told to avoid another failure.

At the end of the day he felt pretty wretched he’d failed again he climbed down the mountain and went to find his teacher who burst out laughing again congratulations wonderful now you know how to practice perfectly he didn’t understand why the teacher was so pleased what on Earth had he learned the teacher was pleased because the novice was now ready to recognize something of real significance you cannot force the mind and if you try to you won’t like what comes of it.”

The Breath – Steadying the Mind

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